The blog resumes, as does the journey.
What a three weeks it’s been in Budapest. I can understand 10 times more spoken Hungarian than I could a month ago, and can make myself fluently but spectacularly ungrammatically understood. Pretty useless skill outside Hungary, of course, but fun.
I can talk to my bike in Hungarian – Raven is Varyu, pronounced Vorr-yoo with lots of rolling Rs – and I have made the nicest and lingustically most enthusiastic of friends at the Hungarian language summer school.
From left to right Hiroko from Japan, Fiona from Canada, Joern from Germany, Milan (thanks for the note, Milan, reminding me of your name, confusingly male!), then Lisa from the US and Federico from Italy on the right, a professional interpreter in Brussels and frighteningly good at it.
And thanks especially also to Ildiko, our firmly patient teacher who’s behind the camera.
For many reasons, it’s been very important to stay the extra time in Hungary, and particulary special thanks to my lovely hosts Agi and Gabor, and their two kids Akos (9) and Adele (4). Their hospitality, kindness and generosity has been out of this world. It’s them in the separate photo, alongside the Danube after a farewell cycle, lunch and thunderstorm before I headed out of town late on Sunday.
It was also wonderful to meet up again after six years with one of my absolutely favourite BBC correspondents, Nick Thorpe, for a fascinating late evening’s catching up on the politics of the Balkans.
As wise and gentle as the hills that hold Budapest down the Danube’s western banks, Nick has been living in Hungary for 22 years, with his lovely Hungarian wife Andrea and their now five (!) sons.
His picture above won’t win a Pulitzer, but that’s all the light there was in the hallway of his carpet- and book-stuffed flat as we staggered downstairs back to my bike, tanked up with the best Palinka I have ever tasted and rather too much of Nick’s favourite local white wine.
And the third picture? If ever you’re in Pilisbirosjenoe in mid-May, do see both the stunning local museum of old German culture here, and especially the local schoolkids putting on their show of Hungarian dancing and music. The quality, engagement and pride in just Being Hungarian put our British efforts to shame.
The Hungarians moan about their government and their economy – I think they’re probably even more professional grumblers than the Germans. But unlike many other nations, they don’t have much doubt about their core identity. Something to do with speaking Hungarian, probably.
So, onwards. It’s time to head for home. Serious biking to be done through Slovakia first, then Poland, Northerrn Germany and the Low Countries. No Transsylvania after all this time, but Dracula and the Carpathian bears await a future visit.
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